Overcoming geographic internet restrictions when travelling


When I was in China this year, I found that – a little frustratingly – I was only intermittently able to access the likes of Facebook and Twitter from the hotel where I was staying. It was a flying visit but, had I been a little more prepared, the use of a Virtual Private Network (or VPN) service such as TunnelBear would have made life a whole lot simpler. In short, this allows you to use the internet pretty much anonymously.

TunnelBear VPN

The beauty of this particular VPN lies partly in its minimalist interface. It’s really easy to use, with a sleek and intuitive design… and with a few cuddly bears thrown into the bargain, too. You just switch it on and choose your connection from servers around the world, including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan and more. You then connect to the internet as though you were in one of those countries, thereby circumventing content that might otherwise be blocked.

TunnelBear app

In addition to allowing you access to geo-blocked content, TunnelBear will also give you privacy and security when using public WiFi networks. This is an equally important consideration when you might be entering personal on financial information when surfing the Web.

TunnelBear privacy

The benefits aren’t restricted to just work use, of course. Browsing the internet as though you were in a different country will also allow you to access the likes of Spotify, Netflix, BBC iPlayer or even to keep up-to-date with the latest action of your favourite sports teams that only stream online from certain countries. I’m in Greece as I type this and am able to stream BBC iPlayer as though I were back home in the UK, with no noticeable loss in quality. What’s more, you can do all this through your phone as there are versions for both iOS and Android.

With the free version of TunnelBear you’ll enjoy 500MB of data per month (and up to 1GB if you give them a mention on Twitter). You’ll get through that easily if you stream, of course, but for an upgrade costing you just $4.99 per month – or a mere $49.99 for the full year (the ‘Grizzly’ plan) – you can enjoy unlimited data on up to three different devices.

Giant TunnelBear plan

Next time I’m in China, using the internet should now be that little bit more bear-able.

Comments (11)

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  1. Very cool Paul.

    We use Strong VPN. Super important to access restricted websites, and also, to access websites that would flag you if your IP showed up in some exotic paradise halfway around the world from your home country.

    We’ve used VPNs to access blocked sites in Vietnam and we also access different sites without being flagged. Must have tool for travelers.

    Thanks Paul for the review.

    Tweeting from Fiji.


  2. Jamie says:

    I lived in Beijing for 4 months and had the exact same problems. Internet in China is really terrible, even if you subscribe for the best package its super slow.

    VPN’s tend to make it even slower, but it’s the only way around it. I just used a free VPN, but if I was going to go back to China, I would probably take the small plunge and pay for one, for the better speeds.

  3. Paul Johnson says:

    Thanks, Ryan. With most of my travels, blocking isn’t usually an issue but it was in China and I wasn’t really prepared for it. In any case, it’s probably good practice for me to be using a VPN as I do use mobile banking occasionally.

  4. Reyasat says:

    Thankx for nice post. We are using VPN to access blocked sites in Dubai. Some time I am traveling other countries issues rise again blocking the some important webs. Their is must tools.



  5. Tipoa says:

    Excellent article and what’s sounds to be a more versatile alternative to Hide my Ass.

    To be honest I prefer bears to mules

  6. Lash says:

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the tip. I’ve heard of VPN but never have had a reason to use it thus far.

    Good to know for future if I need to appear as if I’m in USA or elsewhere while online.

    …Thanks Ryan for including your uses of VPN as well. :)

    just tweeted this post.

    cheers, Lash

  7. Paul Johnson says:

    Thanks, Lash… I’m surprised to hear you’ve not come across the need to use one yet! Should the need ever arise, this one works a treat… simple to use and inexpensive.

    PS – I know I have an outstanding email from you still to attend to by the way (things have been so hectic and there doesn’t seem to be any let-up just at the moment, but I will get on to it at some point… honest!)

  8. Baguio says:

    Is there any app for the chromebook that functions similar to tunnelbear? I cannot seem to find tunnelbear on Google Web Store.

  9. Lash says:

    Hey Paul,

    I actually lived in Shanghai for 4 months. I took a web design course from a Dutch IT expert while there, so I was actually online a lot. He knew ALL the tricks for getting around internet blocks in China, so I suppose he had me on a VP or something. Never had to personally bother with it.

    …as for the other matter, yep, I knew you were off traveling and figured that you’re backed up. Will be good to hear from you on that when you get the time.

    Enjoy your travels if you’re still on the road.

    cheers, Lash

  10. Paul Johnson says:

    Hi Baguio… I don’t have a Chromebook, so I don’t really know, sorry. If a search for TunnelBear doesn’t bring anything up, I guess it’s not there and would suggest that just searching for VPN should offer you something.

    And hi again, Lash… yes, I guess he must have been using a VPN. Thanks for being so patient! :)


  11. Baguio says:

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the reply, for the chromebook there are a few options the one VPN i found to be useful is Hola Better Internet hope this info would help anyone with a predicament same as mine ;-)

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